Another wonderfully insightful piece by Anthony Esolen over at the blog for our sister publication, Touchstone. I am posting the first two paragraphs here, but I highly recommend reading the rest over at Mere Comments. It is a great reflection on community, relationships, family and sex in our culture.
At lunch the other day, a young adjunct in my department, whom I was meeting for the first time, said a few things that showed a remarkable insight into the loneliness of modern life. He reminded me that C. S. Lewis had noted that in the late Middle Ages, after the climate had gone bad, people fantasized about food — almost, you might say, pornographically. Certainly in a bawdy poem like The Land of Cockaygne there’s more voluptuous fascination expended upon roast geese flying through the air, and things like that, than upon nuns and monks ready to go at it. But it is hard to find, in all of medieval literature, a reference to someone’s being lonely. Life was too full of the proximate bodiliness of other people. Besides, even in bad times, you had your family, your neighbors, your guild, and your church.
My companion said that he thought that the emphasis upon sex in our own time is a function of our alienation, one from another. He didn’t know it perhaps, but he was picking up on something that Josef Pieper said about eros in Faith, Hope, Love. Pieper, like Gabriel Marcel and Romano Guardini, decried the regimentation and institutionalization of modern life; its substitution of the weekend and the vacation for the holiday; its hatred both of solitude and of community, giving us instead the loneliness and anonymity of the crowd, the functionality of the workplace, and the false celebration of the debauch. Pieper said that in such a world, man will inevitably look to eros as “the last green thing,” the last hope for truly human contact. Strangely enough, we were then joined by another member of my department, an observant but politically liberal Jew, who got to talking about Aristophanes, and how in The Acharnians the playwright sets up sex — the pleasure of my own body — as the last frontier not conquered by state control.